In each of the past two seasons, Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace has been asked for his thoughts about playing the Pittsburgh Steelers, with whom he spent his first four NFL seasons. But Wallace has not played for Pittsburgh since 2012.
On the other hand, inside linebacker Steven Johnson was a member of the Steelers organization until he was waived on Sept. 23. So returning to Pittsburgh for Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field is a little unsettling for Johnson, who was signed to the Ravens’ active roster on Oct. 17.
“It’s a little strange, it’s different, but in this league, you have to have a short memory — on the field or off the field,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “You’ve got to be able to block stuff out and keep playing football, and that’s what I plan to do. But I’m not going to lie. It’s going to be a little weird because I’m still human. But at the same time, you’ve just got to block it out and do your job.”
The 6-foot-1, 237-pound Johnson has been a contributor on special teams, where he has made two tackles. Although he has not lined up for a snap on defense, he knows how important Sunday’s game is for the Ravens, who are trying to move closer to locking up a berth in the AFC playoffs.
“This is a big game for us, especially with playoff implications and stuff like that,” he said. “So it’s going to be huge.”
Wallace has faced the Steelers four times, including three with the Ravens. But he denied having any intense dislike for his former team.
“No, I don’t hate them,” he said. “It is all love. It is all love. Football is about making plays and who is on your team. You support your team. I am on this team. When I was there, I had a great time. It was a great organization to play for. I am where I am today because of the opportunity of playing there. It is never going to be any hate, but at the same time, I play for the Ravens. So on Sunday night, I want to make plays for the Ravens.”
Johnson said he has been texting this week primarily with Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats, his former lockermate. And he said he would not be surprised if a former teammate tried to welcome him back with a big hit early in the game.
“They might try, but they know who I am,” Johnson said. “I’ll come right back out and hit them back. But this is just a competitive thing. We’re all friends. … It’s all fun. It’s a real-life competition, but after the game, we’ll shake hands and hug and stuff like that. So I’m excited.”